The judicial showdown between Minnesota Sen. Al Franken and Minnesota Supreme Court Justice David Stras is worthy of a vigorous debate over the role of senators who are responsible for vetting the nomination of candidates to the federal bench.
Franken has blocked the appointment of Stras, who once clerked for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, because he fears Stras will be too Thomas-like on the federal bench, in this case the Eighth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals.
That’s a debatable point, as I wrote a week ago, and deserves an intelligent, principled, and sober analysis and discussion. The bench is serious business.
A conservative judicial group, however, went juvenile, instead, releasing an ad today claiming that Franken is jealous of Stras.
This nonsense is the classic dumbing down of a complex political story.
When Stras was last on the ballot — 2012 — he received 1,141,951 votes easily defeating Tim Tingelstad. It was the first and only election Stras has faced since he was appointed by Gov. Tim Pawlenty in 2010.
In Franken’s last election — 2014 — he received 1,053,205 votes. But what the Judicial Crisis Network doesn’t say is that there were four people on the ballot.
It also doesn’t acknowledge a reality of judicial elections in Minnesota. Voters rarely know anything about the judicial candidate they’re voting for, partly because campaigns for judges have different rules. Candidates aren’t allowed to give opinions that might be perceived as not impartial on issues that might come before the court.
So, for the part, judges barely campaign, the media never cover the races on the rare occasion when a judge is actually opposed for re-election, and by Election Day voters are generally uninformed about their selection.
Popularity? Here’s guessing that most Minnesotans couldn’t name a single member of the Minnesota Supreme Court.